Michigan's Giant Stove (Photo courtesy of Marsha Ericks)
Pictured above is the “World’s Largest Stove” at its current location – the State Fairgrounds in Detroit. George H. Barbour, vice-president of the Michigan Stove Company, conceived the idea for this giant replica stove. He used it to promote the company’s “Garland” model at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. William J. Keep designed the replica, sculpted from oak by either John Tabaczuk or Joachim Jungwirth. The massive oaken replica stove was painted to appear metal, weighed fifteen tons, measured twenty-five feet high, thirty feet long and twenty feet wide.
When this “giant stove” was constructed, Detroit was the center of the American stove industry. Several large stove companies employed thousands of industrial workers in the city’s diversified manufacturing sector. The five most prominent firms of Detroit’s “stove era” were the Michigan Stove Company, the Detroit Stove Works, the Peninsular Stove Company, the Art Stove Company, and the Detroit Vapor Stove Company.
Detroit’s stove industry ultimately declined, but the giant Garland stove remained a popular landmark. After the Columbian Exposition, it was placed at Jefferson near Elmwood and Adair Street. (This site is known as “Bloody Run,” as Pontiac’s Native American forces ambushed British soldiers there on July 31st, 1763.) In 1926, the stove was restored and placed just west of the Belle Isle Bridge, close to the headquarters of Detroit-Michigan Stove Company. Detroit-Michigan Stove Company was bought out in 1955 by Welbilt Corp, and from 1957 to 1965, Schaefer Bakeries leased the stove to advertise its bread. The stove was then moved to the Michigan State Fairgrounds in 1965. Due to its deteriorating condition, it was removed from the State Fairgrounds in 1974 and stored at the Fort Wayne Military Museum. Then, in the 1990s, Detroit’s corporate community, labor unions and individual donors sponsored its restoration. The refurbished stove debuted on August 24th, 1998. It remains a vivid reminder of Detroit’s extraordinary history as a manufacturing city.